Fear of the young quarterback is becoming a thing of the past in college football, except for those defenses that have had a taste of Jameis Winston and a few of his standout inexperienced colleagues this season.
Eleven teams entered the 2013 campaign with a total of zero starts at the quarterback position, and three of those teams have flourished. Going green at quarterback can no longer be automatically categorized as a recipe for disaster.
Kids are being introduced to sophisticated concepts earlier, and they're playing more. High school coaches are better prepared to teach the position than ever before, and college coaches are becoming more inclined to go with the younger guys at the position early.
We're seeing it in the NFL, too. When teams spend an early pick on a quarterback, they don't expect him to wait for an opportunity. They want to find a way to get him on the field right away.
We're going to see more of the same. Young quarterbacks are going to keep getting better and better training. The learning curve continues to get chopped down. A rookie starter at quarterback will not arch our eyebrows much in the future.
That puts a lot of pressure on these youngsters, but they seem equipped for it.
Here are four college football quarterbacks who are shattering expectations and the conventional wisdom about young players at their position. One thing they all have in common, aside from talent -- all three have head coaches who are tremendous molders of quarterbacks.
Baylor QB Bryce Petty
The Bears are 7-0 and ranked sixth in the BCS standings heading into Thursday night's Big 12 showdown against Oklahoma, and Petty is leading the nation's top-ranked passing (417.3 yards per game) and scoring offense (63.9 points per game). He's a fourth-year junior, so he had been around the program for a while, backing up Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence. He had to patiently wait for his time, and he's making the most of it now. Baylor head coach Art Briles knows how to produce quarterbacks -- NFL starters RGIII and Case Keenum are among his protégés.
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Texas Tech QBs Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb
First-year Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury had to decide between starting two true freshman -- Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield (a walk-on) -- in fall camp, and he has found a way to win with both quarterbacks. Mayfield beat out Webb for the starting job in a camp competition and put up big numbers (297.6 yards per game, eight TDs) in the first five before a knee injury sent him to the sideline. Webb has 15 TDs in his eight games this season and is throwing for 279.6 yards per game. Only Baylor averages more passing yards per game than Texas Tech (414.2). Kingsbury calls the plays, and he coaches the quarterbacks -- he's a hands-on guy. Texas Tech, a team no one expected to put up a big fight in the Big 12 heading into the season, is 7-2 and ranked 25th in the nation.
Florida State QB Jameis Winston
Ever heard of this guy? By now he's well known to most of us, but it bears repeating that Winston, only a redshirt freshman, is an incredible talent and leader. His teammates listen to him, they respect him, and they have followed him all the way to an 8-0 record and the No. 2 ranking in the BCS standings. He sounds almost too good to be true. Then you watch him play, and you realize he is that good. I've been waiting to see how he would respond in a game when he really struggled. That opportunity arrived for Winston against Miami last week, when he threw two interceptions in the first half, and he kept his composure, leading Florida State to a comfortable win. Look at who's coaching him -- a prolific offensive mind in Jimbo Fisher.